Image credits: © Lincoln.

1970 Lincoln Continental Mark III

Hardtop Coupe
Chassis Num: 0Y89A856875
Sold for $37,400 at 2011 Gooding & Company.
In September of 1965, Lee Iacocca authorized Ford's Advance Design Office to begin work on a new project for a two-door personal luxury car. The result of their work, the Continental Mark III, made its debut in mid-1968. The vehicle had a long hood, short rear deck with continental spare tire treatment and a new grille. The car was an immediate success with buyers, and by 1970 the model had received minor aesthetic upgrades like new wheel covers, concealed windshield wipers, a Cartier clock and walnut veneers on the instrument panel, steering wheel and door trim.

The Mark III brought with it many technical innovations including a computer-controlled Sure-Track rear brake system, which was a precursor to anti-lock brakes that was developed by Kelsey-Hayes. The Mark III was the first American car to offer steel-belted radial tires as a standard feature.

This Mark III wears its original mechanical components and cosmetic trim. The paint is mostly original and the vinyl hardtop remains in good condition. Currently, the odometer reads only 15,300 miles. Powering the car is a 460 cubic-inch overhead valve V-8 delivering 365 horsepower. There are four-wheel drum brakes and a Select-Shift 3-Speed Turbo-Drive automatic transmission.

In 2007, the car was acquired by its current owner.

In 2011, the car was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. The vehicle was estimated to sell for $35,000 - $45,000 and offered without reserve. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $37,400 inclusive of buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2011
Few changes were made to the Mark III for 1970. Few were needed. The vinyl roof became standard, and the parking lights now illuminated wîth the headlamps. The interior upholstery received a facelift, eliminating the diamond-tufted look of the 1969 models. The simulated wood grain accents on the interior were upgraded to genuine Walnut veneer. The windshield wipers were hidden under the back edge of the hood, which also allowed heat in the engine compartment to dissipate better. Michelin steel belted radial ply tires were now provided as standard equipment, complete wîth a 40,000-mile tread wear guarantee. And the Three Spoke Rim-Blow Steering Wheel, which allowed the driver to operate the horns simply by squeezing the inner rim was a new feature, also standard. In addition to the new §teering wheel, the ignition key was relocated to the §teering column, and now featured a locking device that locked the §teering wheel and the transmission selector lever when the key was removed. All GM products adopted this feature in 1969.

The twelve-mile road test which all Lincolns had endured since 1961 was eliminated, in favor of a road-test simulator. The simulator overcame the effects of bad weather, test driver opinion, and measuring devices that might not be adjusted properly. The new simulator also saved Ford a lot of time. And time is money. The new optional Stardust metallic paints used bronze particles to give the paint a golden sparkle, instead of the aluminum particles used previously. Another interesting change--one that was deleted early in production--was the time delay map light. Designed to remain on for a few seconds after the doors closed, presumably to illuminate the ignition switch, it was a great idea that just didn't get the opportunity to catch on.

The Mark III's main competition was the Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado. Sales of the Mark III were a stone's throw from those of the Caddy, which must have concerned the folks at GM just a little. The Eldorado received a modest facelift for 1970, and also got a new engine--the 8.2 Litre (500 cubic inch) V-8. Rated at 400 horsepower, this would be the largest engine to ever be installed in an American production car. The Eldorado utilized this engine through the 1976 model year.

With the numbers for the Mark III and Eldorado so close, this created a rivalry between the two cars.
Motor Trend Magazine even began the first of what would be an annual review of the two cars, calling the article 'King of the Hill', the magazine compared the two cars feature for feature. In the end, the Mark III won in areas of leather quality and seating configuration, as well as 'sheer plushness...from a luxury standpoint', but lost to Eldorado on general organization of the driving compartment, instrument legibility, and headroom. Overall, the Mark III was given the edge. The response to the article was huge! Motor Trend received a large number of responses, professionally typed on crisp business letterheads. No comment is noted as to which marque received the most mail in its favor.
Advertising for the 1970 Mark III remained dignified and understated. Few words were used in ad copy, as well as the sales brochures. Apparently, Lincoln felt that the car could speak for itself. Lincoln was right. The Continental Mark III remains one of the most distinctive cars on the road. And the quality that was used to build the car is still very much evident in some of the high mileage examples that still exist. The 1970 Continental Mark III. A classic in its own time.

Source - Automotive Mileposts
The name 'Continental' was inspired by the 1940's Lincoln Continental powered by a large 12-cylinder engine. Bentley had used the name Continental on their model line, adding to the ambiance and prestige. In 1956 the Ford Motor Company formed the Continental Division for the production of the Mark II. Its general manager was William Clay 'Bill' Ford, son of Edsel Ford and grandson of Henry Ford. Many people associated the Continental as a Lincoln because it featured the trademark Lincoln spare-tire hump in the trunk lid and it was sold and serviced at Lincoln dealerships. Many of the mechanical components were courtesy of Lincoln such as the drivetrain. The Continental Division lasted until 1957 when it was merged with Lincoln and the Continental Mark II was added as Lincoln's flagship model. The name 'Continental' would stay with the Mark line until the introduction of the Mark VII in 1984.

There never was a model designated as a Lincoln or Continental Mark I.

The Continental Mark II had an understated beauty; it was elegant without the need to be flamboyant. Unlike the flashy American style of the time, it was very tasteful in its design. It did not use chrome, two-tone paint, or sharp styling cues to accentuate its beauty. At the front was an egg-crate style grille and straight fenders. The hood was long and curvy, perfect for concealing the 6-liter engine. Mounted on the hood and in the back was the four-pointed star that later became Lincoln's emblem. The Lincoln 368 cubic-inch V8 was matted to a Lincoln three-speed automatic transmission. The back had the signature Lincoln spare-tire hidden in the trunk lid. Though sharing many similarities with the Thunderbird, these were completely different machines. The Continentals were mostly hand made; the paint was applied multiple times and then sanded, double-lacquered, and polished.

These rolling works of art were very costly. The $10,000 sticker price was equivalent to a Rolls-Royce. Top-of-the-line American luxury brands, such as Cadillac, were selling for around $5000. Even at these high prices, Ford still lost an estimated $1,000 per car. At the time Ford was a private company and was willing to incur these losses but when Ford became a public company, losses were not permitted. A stock Mark II was $10,000 in 1956. Derham and Hess & Eisenhardt both estimated a convertible conversion to cost $18,000 to custom build. That's why there were so few Mark II convertibles.

The Continental was sold to the rich and famous. Anyone who could afford the cost was welcome. Famous buyers included Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Louie Prima, Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, Spike Jones, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry J. Kaiser, Howard Johnson, the Shah of Iran, and many other celebrities owned them.

The Continental Mark II was debuted to the public at the Paris Motor Show in 1955. During the close of 1955, around 1300 Mark II's were sold. For the entire 1956 model year, another 1300 were sold. In 1957, around 450 were produced for a total of just over 3000. Around 1500 still exist in modern time. Only three convertibles were created.

Mark III
The Lincoln Continental Mark III was produced from 1969 through 1971. Actually, in 1958 the Continental Division of Ford tried to produce the Continental Mark III but sales and production never really materialized. The onset of the 1958 recession accelerated the demise of the Continental Division.

The 1969 Mark III was introduced in 1968 as a 1969 Model year. It was positioned to compete with Cadillac's Eldorado. The Mark III was, in many ways, a luxury version of the Ford Thunderbird. The Mark III and Thunderbird shared many mechanical components; their styling was similar and both were built at Ford's Wixom, Michigan plant. The engine was a Ford 429 enlarged to 460 cubic-inches.

In the back was the signature spare-tire bulge, though no spare-tire was housed in this enclosure. The design was rectangular and smooth. It was taller, larger, 300 pounds heavier, more powerful and luxurious than the Thunderbird. Power brakes, steering, windows, headlamps and front seats were all standard. Vinyl with cloth inserts was standard with leather being optional. The door trim panels and instrument panels were either rosewood or oak, depending on the interior color chosen.

The vinyl roof was popular, even though it was optional. Other options included a variety of radios, 8-track tape players, and air conditioning. Both front seats were power adjustable, but for an additional cost additional power adjustments could be installed. An automatic headlamp dimmer could be ordered, meaning that it would dim automatically for oncoming cars. Anti-lock brakes, cruise control, and a limited slip differential were available for an additional cost.

In its introductory year, nearly 31,000 examples were produced. Though the Eldorado had better slightly stronger sales, this was still a very respectable start for a long and successful series.

In 1970, 21,432 examples were sold. The following year, 27,091 were sold. Even though the best year was in 1968, sales had begun in 1968. Meaning that the sales sold in 1968 and 1969 were counted together.

In 1970 the vinyl roof became standard and the windshield wipers were made recessed. The interior trim was now real wood. A locking steering column was introduced. Radial tires were standard equipment.

1971 was the final production year for the Mark III. Tinted glass, SureTrak anti-lock brakes, and automatic climate-controlled air-conditioning became standard.

Mark IV

In 1972, the Lincoln Continental Mark IV was introduced and would stay in production until 1976. It was similar to its predecessor but grew in both length and width. It still shared a platform with the Thunderbird and in many respects, were similar.

There were few differences of the Mark III and the Mark IV. The Mark IV was slightly rounder, the wheel openings were a little different, and optional opera windows were installed. The grille was longer and a new bumper adorned the front of the vehicle. The popular vinyl roof was now standard. In 1973, a new federally mandated 5 mph bumper was installed.

Under the hood was a 460 cubic-inch Ford 385 Series V8 capable of producing just over 210 SAE horsepower. Power was sent to the wheels courtesy of a C6 3-speed automatic transmission.

Sales were strong for the Mark IV with the lowest production year being in 1975 with 47,145 units sold. 1973 was the strongest year for sales with 69,437. With total sales amounting to 278,559 for the five years of production, the average total sales per year was 55719.

1976 had strong sales partly because of the newly introduced Designer Series. These were special edition Mark IV that were given color, trim and interior choices by famous designers. The designers' signature was placed on the opera windows and a 22 karat gold plated plaque could be found on the instrument panel. The gold plaque could be engraved with the original owners' name.

There were four designer editions offered: Bill Blass Edition, Cartier Edition, Givenchy Edition, and Pucci Edition. The Bill Blass Edition was dark blue with cream accents; the Cartier Edition was dove grey; The Givenchy Edition was aqua blue; and the Pucci Edition was in red and silver.

Mark V
In 1977, In Lincoln Continental Mark V replaced the Mark IV, and would stay in production for only three years, ending in 1979.

In comparison to its predecessor, it was rounder, longer and wider and no longer built on a Ford Thunderbird platform. The engine was downgraded to a Ford 400 cubic-inch small-block engine. The Ford 385 460 cubic-inch was available, except in California, as optional equipment until 1978.

The Continental Mark V was a big and heavy car. It averaged 7 mpg under normal driving conditions and 3.5 mpg under full acceleration. Ford was close to violating the Corporate Average Fuel Economy law so in 1980, a smaller Continental was introduced.

Mark VI
The Lincoln Mark VI was introduced in 1980 and stayed in production until 1983. It was smaller version of its predecessor with minor design revisions. The headlight covers and steering wheel were new. Under the hood was a 5-liter eight-cylinder engine. With the reduced weight and a smaller engine, fuel economy improved.

Mark VII
The Lincoln Continental Mark VII, later just called the Mark VII, was introduced in 1984 and produced until 1991. The Mark VII sat atop the Ford Fox platform, had originally been used for the Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr.

From 1984 through 1985, a special edition Versace Designer Edition could be ordered. A Bill Blass Designer Edition was produced from 1984 through 1992. The Luxury Sport Coupe was produced from 1984 through 1992 while the LSC SE was produced from 1990 through 1992.

The Mark VII continued the ambiance set-forth by its predecessors. Leather seating and all-power options were standard. This included a computer message center, digital instruments, keyless entry and more. The luxury sport coupe (LSC) version after 1986 was did not receive all these amenities.

The ride was smooth thanks in part to a full airbag suspension and electronic ride control system. Power was sent to the wheels courtesy of a four-speed automatic transmission. Under the hood was a 5-liter High Output SEFI or throttle body fuel injected V8 capable of producing nearly 230 horsepower. In 1998 the horsepower was further increased after the throttle body was enlarged and better flowing cylinder heads were adapted.

The Mark VII had electronic 4-channel antilock brakes and composite headlights; the first American vehicle to use these features.

The Mark VIII was the next iteration in the long line of the Mark Series. It was produced from 1993 through 1998. The base 2-door coupe was powered by a 4.6 liter DOHC V8 producing 280 horsepower while the LSC models produced 290 horsepower. The LSC model versions, produced from 1995 to 1996 was the first American vehicle to be equipped with HID headlights. The 1997 through 1998 LSC models continued the HID headlights but with larger housings.

Slow sales resulted in the cancellation of this luxury car series. A Lincoln MK9 Concept was introduced in the early 2000's, but plans of production seem doubtful.
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2008
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